St. Louis Paternity Action Attorney
Paternity is the cause of action in Missouri to determine the existence of a parent-child relationship in cases where the parents are not married at the time the child is born. If you are the father of a child born out of wedlock, it is important to establish paternity by obtaining a court order declaring you are the natural father. Many people think that because they are listed on the birth certificate this gives them legal rights as a parent. However, a father may find out that he has very few legal rights or that his rights are unenforceable until an Order is established, declaring him to be the father and granting custody and visitation rights.
If you are the mother of a child born out of wedlock, you may need to file an action for paternity not only to obtain an Order determining who the biological father of the child is, but to obtain an Order for custody, visitation, child support and for birthing expenses and other expenses you have incurred on behalf of the child.
One law governing paternity actions is the Uniform Parentage Act, which establishes a presumption of paternity in certain situations. The purpose of the Uniform Parentage Act is to provide a law that offers children born out of wedlock the same welfare and support afforded to children born of a marriage. In an action for paternity in one of these situations, it is only necessary to prove the existence of the facts to which the presumption would then apply.
A man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if:
- He and the child's natural mother are or have been married to each other, and the child is born during the marriage, or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, dissolution, or legal separation; or
- Before the child's birth, he and the child's natural mother have attempted to marry each other by a marriage solemnized in apparent compliance with the law, although the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and:
- The attempted marriage could be declared invalid only by a court, the child is born during the attempted marriage, or within 300 days after its termination by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or dissolution; or
- The marriage is invalid without a court order, the child is born within 300 days after the termination of cohabitation; or
- After the child's birth, he and the child's natural mother have married each other, or attempted to marry, by a marriage solemnized in apparent compliance with law, although the marriage is or could be declared invalid, and:
- He has acknowledged his paternity of the child in writing filed with the bureau; or
- With his consent, he is named as the child's father on the child's birth certificate; or
- He is obligated to support the child under a written voluntary promise or by court order; or
- He acknowledges his paternity of the child in an affidavit, which is also signed by the natural mother and filed with the bureau or such similar agency in the state where the child was born and paternity acknowledgment is permitted by law. If another man is presumed under this section to be the child's father, acknowledgment may be accomplished only with the written consent of the presumed father or after the presumption has been rebutted.
The standard of proof for determining paternity is a preponderance of the evidence; but to rebut a presumption of paternity, the standard of proof is much higher: clear and convincing evidence. The presumption can be rebutted by a court judgment establishing the paternity of the child by another man, or by a DNA test establishing non-paternity.
As you can clearly see, determining legal paternity can be a confusing endeavor. Given the numerous legal responsibilities and rights that come along with paternity, it is critical that you consult with an experienced paternity lawyer who can properly advise and guide you.
If you are the mother or father of a child born out of wedlock, you should contact an experienced St. Louis child custody attorney to discuss your rights and options regarding filing an action for paternity, custody and visitation, child support and/or past expenses for the child.
Tonya Page will be happy to discuss your Missouri family law case with you and answer any questions you may have. She may be reached at (314) 724-3529 or via our contact form.